If you are looking for Dr. Ranjan Kumar Shaw, you can find him strolling through the cauliflower fields, bending often, and examining the plants.
In straw hat and rubber boots, Dr. Ranjan is carefully taking down the data in one-hectare area of the field full of cauliflowers planted by his team a couple of weeks ago. He had transferred them from the lab 30 km away from here.
Back in the lab, he puts on his lab coat and buries himself into experiments. You may also notice him peering into his computer screen scourging through the data collected in the fields and reviewing them. It is hard though, to associate him again with the man a while ago walking through the fields in the mud.
Unlike using seeds to grow plants, he regenerates them in the lab through ‘tissue culture’ technique, then transfers them to the artificial climate chamber with a constant temperature of 25 Celsius.
Dr. Ranjan is now pursuing his post-doctoral research at Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences (ZAAS), dedicated to battling against the commonly-seen browning disorder of cauliflower. It seems like a minor problem but according to Dr. Ranjan, if his study goes successful, a huge loss could be saved for both the fresh and processed cauliflower markets in China. “In the worst case, these dark brown spots would gradually affect the whole cauliflower,” he explained.
Their ‘cauliflower and broccoli breeding’ research group led by Prof. Honghui Gu has made good progress and is undertaking the development of tolerant varieties. It’s indeed quite exciting, not to mention that they are the one of the few teams he knows of in China working on this subject. In recent years, their team has developed a series of elite varieties in cauliflower and broccoli, such as ‘Zheqing 80’, ‘ZheNong Songhua 88 days’, and some special varieties with purple or yellow head colour. Also, their team aims to solve the existing problems in cauliflower and broccoli, and has published more than 20 articles in international journals.
“ZAAS is one of the premier agricultural research institutes in China. Its excellent infrastructure, advanced laboratories and latest equipment are backing us up in doing quality and innovative research,” Dr. Ranjan says.
Dr. Ranjan comes from a small village in India. As a kid, he saw farmers making lots of efforts, but often the yield was very low and sometimes the crops were attacked by diseases and pests. “This had always struck my mind and I decided to do something to solve this problem”, he reminisces. After choosing his path in agriculture, he couldn’t wait to share his knowledge to the farmers.
Now in China, he has visited a few farms in Taizhou and Wenzhou of Zhejiang province, in which the farmers cultivate cauliflower and broccoli on a large scale. Sadly, the browning disorder is extremely serious. Again, this has prompted him to involve keenly to find the ways and means to address the issue.
The type of job he does requires years of patience and a careful mind, but Dr. Ranjan never gets tired of it. His life has been between labs and fields, and of course in ZAAS’ cafeteria, as the delicious food there has always fueled his energy to get through the exhausting day.